February 18, 2021 Approximately ten percent of Californians have now received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. In the coming months, approval of additional vaccines as well as measures to remedy early distribution problems should substantially increase the vaccination rate. While Californians are eager to put behind them a year of shifting tiers, distance learning and stay-at-home orders, doing so will require a combination of increased vaccinations and continuing the commonsense hygiene practices we all know by now. In their January statement, the California bishops said that “Beyond simply protecting their own health and safety, Catholics also have an obligation to protect their family, friends and community by vaccinating as soon as feasible in accordance with public health guidelines and protocols in their area.” To fulfill that obligation, Catholics also need a clear, accurate and realistic view of the vaccines and their medical and ethical implications. Two excellent presentations address questions just these issues: The Office of Life, Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted a webinar with Fr. Nic Austriaco, OP, to learn the scientific foundation behind the research and development of the COVID19 vaccines and examine the moral and ethical concerns. Fr. Austriaco has a Ph.D. in Biology from M.I.T and a Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. The webinar with Fr. Austriaco is available here. The other webinar focuses on one of the populations hit hardest by COVID in California: Hispanics. To address the medical and ethical questions as well as the unique aspects for the Hispanic community, the Hispanic ministries from dioceses around the western United States also hosted a webinar with UCLA emergency room professor, Dr. Daniel Chavira. Dr. Chavira is at the epicenter of the COVID outbreak among Hispanics in the Los Angeles area in his role as an emergency physician and medical director of Clinical Observation at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. He also has a bachelor’s in Biology and Theology from Loyola Marymount University. Continued care will be needed in the coming months as the vaccines rollout. Many dioceses and parishes are finding ways to help people register, drive to mass vaccination centers and understand the need to help each other. Click here for English and Spanish Bulletin Announcements from the Bishops urging COVID-19 vaccinations.